There are many, many mistakes that candidates make during the course of a political campaign. It often has to do with something a candidate says or does in public.
Since we deal with the online aspects of campaigning, we’ll stick to mistakes that candidates make online.
In no particular order, these are the top mistakes that we see all too often.
Failure to keep it short
People just don’t have time to read through mountains of information. Just because you have unlimited space on the web does not mean that you should explain each position you take with dozens of pages and thousands of words. It’s highly unlikely that you are going to change a voter’s mind with a long, well-reasoned arguments. White papers are fine for downloads, but don’t make that material your primary content.
In your writing, eliminate most adjectives and get rid of as many adverbs as you can. Write in a plain style with short sentences. Split up your content into logical sections with sub-headings. Remember that writing for the web is different than writing for print.
Failure to keep the third person
We see this a lot. Candidates use their site’s home page as an open letter to voters. While this is a good concept, it can kill your website rankings. Using the the words ‘I’, ‘me and ‘my’ mean nothing to the search engines. If you want to rank for your name, then your name needs to be included in your site content.
Sometimes we’ll have a client who really wants to use first person copy on their home page. To compensate for this, we often use ‘pull boxes’ that include the candidate’s name. Combined with a good page title, page description and image tags, we can often work around the first person copy limitations.
Failure to use online fundraising effectively
Okay, we are now two decades into the twenty-first century. Even the smallest campaigns have the ability pull donations from online sources. If you have a campaign bank account and a website, there are many services that allow you to take online donations with minimal cost.
Fifteen years ago, the majority of our clients did not accept online donations. Most figured it was too much work for too little return. Back then, PayPal was a popular choice through which to take donations. While you can still use PayPal (and Online Candidate provides native integration for it), newer services designed for political fundraising provide tools to take donations from more sources like social media. Some can even let you collect recurring donations through Election Day.
Our advice to local campaigns is to start early, use your website to raise seed money, and use those initial funds to build momentum as the race heats up.
Failure to track traffic
The flip side to getting website traffic and online donations is tracking where it all comes from. One of the simplest and most popular web tracking solutions is Google Analytics. It’s a free service and just requires that a bit of tracking code be added to the pages of your website.
There is plenty of information provided with just the standard setup. You can see how many visitors your site gets, what pages they visit, how long they stay on your site and so on. With a little configuration, you can set up tracking for emails, pay-per-click advertising and even offline advertising if you happen to use targeted landing pages. Tracking your website traffic will help you determine what advertising channels are working best.
Online Candidate offers server log stats, but those numbers can be misleading. They tend to overstate visits by counting bots and non-human traffic. Google Analytics can be easily integrated into our websites. We also offer Site Launch service as a website addon option. This includes Google Analytics setup and a review of the site for best optimization practices to help it rank better for related searches.
Failure to forget anything can go viral online
Anything you post online – be it a post, video or document – has the ability to spread far beyond its intended audience.
Many candidates tend to forget that offline material can end up online as well. There have been many cases where a candidate ‘true’ thoughts were revealed in a private setting. All it takes is a single recording from a cell phone to make things public. One famous example of this is Mitt Romney’s “takers vs makers” comment at a private fundraiser. The secret recording made headlines, and Romney never fully recovered from his remarks.
Failure to launch
One local candidate that we knew didn’t make an official announcement that he was running until a week before Election Day. Why the wait? He didn’t want to ‘tip his hat’ too early.
Unfortunately, by keeping things under wraps for so long, hardly anyone knew about the candidate or his campaign in time to make a difference. Not only did he announce late, but there had been no preparation to do anything after the announcement. Once the announcement appeared in the local paper… there was nothing. No mailings, no volunteer efforts .
Needless to say, the candidate lost the election.
Starting early gives you time to build support. It doesn’t mean that you have to announce early. Most successful campaigns spend a lot of time in preparation, long before they announce their campaign to the public.
Start early with social media to build awareness and anticipation. Use your campaign website to gather email addresses, volunteers and early donations. By the time you are ready to make your campaign official, you’ll be able to hit the ground running and build on the momentum you’ve already established.
As always, check your local board for office qualifications and any rules or laws pertaining to the timing of your preparation (such as fundraising) and when you can legally announce your campaign.
Check out or selection of campaign ebooks and guides designed to help you get the most out of your online campaigning.« Opening a Bank Account For Your Political Campaign
5 Online Ways To Connect With Voters »